5 Types of Motorcycle Helmets: Pros and Cons

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5 Types of Motorcycle Helmets: Pros and Cons

You likely did some research before deciding on a motorcycle so you're going to want to do the same before selecting a motorcycle helmet. Whether you are a seasoned rider looking to replace or upgrade an existing helmet or you're just starting off - here’s a quick rundown on 5 types of motorcycle helmets along with some pros and cons to consider. 



Note: In South Carolina, it is legal to ride without a helmet if you are 21 or over, so it’s the rider’s choice. In North Carolina, you must wear a DOT approved helmet regardless of age.


Full Face

These are your largest and safest helmets. They have a face shield and a stable bar across the lower jaw for full face protection. Not only do they protect you in the event of an accident, they also protect the mouth, nose, and eyes from debris, bugs, and rain. These are especially popular with sport bike riders because they are the most aerodynamic. However, many cruiser riders prefer full face helmets too. They have the most wind noise reduction and are the easiest to equip with a camera and/or Bluetooth for music and GPS. The major downside is ventilation. The higher end models vent well, but they will never be as well ventilated as a half helmet.

Pros:     Most protective, statistically safer than open face, reduced wind noise, easiest to equip with camera and Bluetooth music/GPS systems

Cons:    Heaviest, least ventilation, often higher priced


Modular (aka “flip-up”)

Your modular helmets offer the best of both worlds. They are almost as safe as a full face but give you the versatility of flipping the chin bar up. We don't recommend riding with the chin bar and shield up because it will behave uncomfortably in the wind. It’s at stop lights where you can flip it up and get some fresh air, talk to your riding buddies, or take a drink to cool off. They do tend to be the heaviest helmets because of the added hardware. Also, there is some skepticism about whether they are as safe as the standard full face because of the hinge joints. In fact, Snell (who has more rigorous standards than DOT) has only certified a small number of modular helmets.

Pros:     Versatility, comfort, safety

Cons:    Heavier and arguably less safe than a standard full face


Open Face (3/4 helmet)

These “old school” style helmets were popular in the 60s and 70s and still have that retro vibe. They leave the face open but come down over your ears and to the top of your neck, providing more coverage than a half helmet. They can be equipped with a face shield or visor, but most don’t have that. These tend to be less expensive than the full face and modular helmets. Most are DOT certified and many are Snell certified because they protect your brain well.

Pros:     Lightweight, ventilation, visibility, easy rider-passenger communication

Cons:    No face protection, extra eye protection required (sunglasses or goggles)


Half Helmet

These are some of the most popular helmets among cruiser-style riders. They only cover the top of your head, so your face and ears are exposed. Even though they provide less coverage than your larger helmets, almost all are DOT certified and some are even Snell certified because they provide great protection for your brain. If you use a half helmet, it is recommended that riders equip their bike with a windshield or fairing to deflect bugs, road debris and rain. In hot weather, these are going to provide the best ventilation. Moreover, you will have the best visibility while using a half helmet.

Pros:     Ventilation, visibility, lightweight, easy communication between riders

Cons:    Least protection, least aerodynamic, nothing to block debris and wind noise



Off-road helmets are a different style full face that is typically worn by dirt bike riders and some dual sport riders. They are specifically designed for bumpy rides where mud, dirt, and dust are likely to get in your face. They usually don’t have a face shield and are most often worn with goggles. Generally, they are not recommended for riding on roads and highways. The design is not intended for high speed winds which will cause your head to be jerked around when looking left and right on the highway.

Pros:     Great face and head protection, great ventilation, light weight

Cons:    Eye protection separate, noisy and uncomfortable at high speeds


Each type of motorcycle helmet has strengths and weaknesses. The type of helmet that is best for you also depends on your needs as a rider. Here are a few other things to consider when deciding on a motorcycle helmet.

  1. How much do you plan to ride?
  2. Will you be riding with a group?
  3. What is the weather like where you typically ride?
  4. What is your helmet’s safety rating? (DOT and Snell)
  5. What is your budget?

If you have questions about helmet laws in your area or what we recommend, give us a call 877-376-7982 or send us a message [email protected]. We’ll gladly offer advice free of charge.  


Karney Law Firm understands the importance of motorcycle safety and has been representing Carolina bikers for more than 30 years. If you or a loved one has been involved in a motorcycle accident, contact Karney Law Firm, a North Carolina motorcycle accident lawyer 877-376-7982.

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Disclaimer: All data and information provided on this blog is for general informational and entertainment purposes only and should not be considered legal advice. The Karney Law Firm will not be liable for any errors or omissions, or any losses, injuries, or damages arising from its display or use. The Karney Law Firm is not responsible for any third-party contents which are accessible through this blog.

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